DOJ supervision of those remedies
ended on May 12, marking the close of a
landmark case that began 13 years ago.
In recent years, U.S. District Court
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who
oversaw Microsoft’s compliance with
the twice-extended November 2002
settlement agreement between Microsoft and the DOJ, focused mostly on
a small piece of the settlement — the
requirement that Microsoft share technical documentation for communication protocols with competitors.
The DOJ said in a statement
that “the final judgment prevented
Microsoft from continuing the type
of exclusionary behavior that led to
the original lawsuit.” It added that
“competitive conditions” bred by the
agreement had fostered the development of new technologies, including
cloud computing and mobile devices.
In a statement this month, Micro-
soft said, “Our experience has changed
us and shaped how we view our
responsibility to the industry.”
Critics’ fears that the DOJ probe
would stifle innovation have proved
mostly unwarranted, said Vint Cerf,
Google’s chief Internet evangelist and
a co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols
underlying the Internet.
Speaking at the Interop conference
earlier this month, Cerf pointed out
that there have been a number of big
developments in I T recently. “Open
source has become such a strong force
in the software world,” he said. “Look at Linux and its predeces-
sor, Unix. Look at Android, or Chrome and the Chrome OS.”
Analysts did speculate that the antitrust settlement may have
had a psychological impact on Microsoft.
IDC analyst Al Gillen noted that Microsoft has been less
aggressive in exploiting new opportunities because it’s wary of
running afoul of regulators. “There were a lot of technical decisions that percolated up into the legal department,” he said.
Still, Microsoft remains strong, and it’s well positioned in
emerging areas like cloud computing. But few experts believe that
Microsoft alone can pose a significant threat to competition.
In fact, just days before U.S. oversight of the company ended,
Microsoft agreed to pay $8.5 billion for Skype, but the move
didn’t seem to raise the hackles of competitors or regulators. u
Nancy Gohring, Grant Gross and Mikael Ricknäs of the
IDG News Service contributed to this story.
July 11, 2001: Bill Gates speaks at Microsoft’s first shareholders meeting after settling
the company’s three-year antitrust case with the U.S. government.
Case Closed: Microsoft
Marks the End of an Era
U.S. oversight of the software company ceases, bringing a
landmark antitrust case to an end. By Patrick Thibodeau
IN 2000, a federal judge ruled that Microsoft was as much a threat to competition within the U.S. economy as Standard Oil had been almost a century earlier. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson proceeded to order that the company be split in two. Jackson ruled that Microsoft had “placed an oppressive
thumb on the scale of competitive fortune.” Microsoft’s then-CEO,
Bill Gates, called the decision “the most massive attempt at govern-
ment regulation of the technology industry ever.”
The main allegation in the original lawsuit, filed in 1998 by the
U.S. Department of Justice and the attorneys general of 19 states
and the District of Columbia, was that Microsoft had illegally
maintained a monopoly in PC operating systems.
The breakup order didn’t survive Microsoft appeals, which led to the
DOJ’s imposition of a limited set of rules designed to keep the company
from punishing equipment makers that sold rival products, and to
prevent it from withholding its APIs from third-party developers.
There were a lot of technical decisions that percolated up into the legal department
to make sure they could do what they were planning to [do]. — AL GILLEN, ANALYST, IDC